You did not get the job

So after two or so conversations and an interview with the headhunter, two face to face meetings with their client and an online psychometric test (which you think you absolutely nailed), you receive the call to say that you did not get the job. That hurt. Rejection is not something anyone enjoys, so maybe just stay in your current job, tear up your CV and consider yourself done until retirement.

No, no, wait! This is one of those scenarios where persistence pays off. Take a breather, walk around the block a few times and let that rejection wash off you, and start again.

This job clearly wasn’t for you, so how can we turn this negative into a positive?

Did I say something wrong?

Unfortunately, you don’t often see companies or hiring authorities write a nice email to let you down gently. More often you find there is a wall of silence, never to be heard from again.

However, as you have met with the company at least once or twice, you should consider phoning or emailing the interviewer. You can thank them for the opportunity and, as part of your learning experience, ask them politely why you weren’t chosen.

If they are prepared to impart this information and you are prepared to listen for a few minutes and ask some pertinent questions, then you could receive some real gems in constructive criticism, well beyond ‘just not being a suitable candidate’.

Ideally you’ll learn about how you did, including whether you were lacking certain experience or needed a particular qualification (in which case the headhunter should have checked whether this was a deal breaker before putting you forward). Had you not done enough home work in preparation? Did you not ask the right questions? Or did they decide to promote internally or hire someone with 10 years more experience than you?

Which part of your performance can you improve?

If nothing else, consider your time meeting and interviewing with the headhunter and their client as a learning experience and, hopefully, as an opportunity to expand your network. However, what can you do to prepare better next time? Find out:

  • Were there any sticking points? How can they be avoided or how would you prepare differently for them?
  • If you were missing qualifications, evaluate whether it is worth gaining these.
  • Was the client expecting you to have skills or experience that you couldn’t claim you had?

Upskill for the next round

If some gaps have emerged in your skill set, experience or in how you answer certain interview questions, then now is the time to find a way to overcome these next time. Can you:

  • Do a course?
  • Volunteer for extra responsibilities or project work that will help you in your development?
  • Get a mentor in your current business?

Keep that door open!

So you did not get the job this time … however the company may well get other vacancies you qualify for in the future. Therefore, if you have been turned down, stay polite and friendly and see it as an opportunity to widen your network. What reasons can you find to stay in touch with the decision maker? Make sure they know you are interested in other vacancies as they materialise, send them an email thanking them for the opportunity and stay connected!

Network

With the emergence of the digital world, it is easier now more than ever before to stay in touch with your network by creating a digital presence and personal brand. Contribute, publish articles and comment. Make sure you are there to get noticed.

Good luck!

 

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Get yourself the right salary

A good headhunter will have done their research and will usually get you a realistic remuneration package. But if you’re not working with a headhunter, you will need to negotiate for yourself.

So how do you negotiate the right deal for you?

Work satisfaction will hopefully come from doing a job you enjoy, but being paid what you’re worth is crucial to feeling valued and having a sense of satisfaction at the end of a long week.

It can be awkward to bring up the subject of money, but it’s essential to get this right from the off. Once you’re in the role, it’s too late to negotiate.

So how do you ensure you really are getting what you deserve?

  • Be prepared to explain your reasoning with evidence-based research.
  • Are you upscaling your role, or is it on a similar level? Compare your expected salary, bonuses and benefits to the position you’re aiming for.
  • Ask some carefully chosen contacts in your industry what they would expect to get, in both terms of salary and other benefits.
  • Find out industry trends including salaries of similar positions and experience levels – a quick look on job boards or LinkedIn will provide some guidance.
  • If you’re moving to a different area, the pay package could vary depending on location.

Allow for flexibility

If you are asked to state what you’re looking for, give a ‘between x and y’ number so that you can negotiate. You can explain that this is the range you have come across for similar roles whilst doing your research.

Pitch it right

Don’t scupper your chances by asking for an unrealistically high salary unless you are prepared to take a risk that you may put yourself out of range.

Conversely, if you ask for too little, you could be underselling yourself and may never recover from that, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Even if it’s your dream job, think beyond the initial excitement and imagine how you’ll feel on that salary in a year or two’s time.

Your previous research will indicate what a reasonable amount for the position and your experience could be.

Exceptions to the rule

If you’re moving from a city location with high expenses to a rural area with an easy commute (or flexibility to work from home) accepting less money could be an option. Or perhaps you’re changing industries and lack experience. Be clear about the reasons before you decide.

Don’t jump in too soon

Wait until you have a formal job offer before you start negotiating – you’re in a much stronger position when you know they want you, and you don’t need to start haggling in the early stages. It could even be off-putting to some.

Any other benefits?

Salary packages could include much more than just a monthly pay packet. Remember to factor in other benefits:

Gym membership, private health insurance, company car, car parking, travel benefits, annual bonus, extra holiday days, fewer travelling expenses. Add up all these extra costs that you may not need to pay out of your own pocket in the future.

Will you get better progression and promotion prospects with this new role? The opportunities presented to you to progress could have value.

Be confident

Be confident and maintain eye contact if you’re asked to state an expected salary. There will be time for negotiation if and when you are offered the role, so simply state your expectations and wait it out. If you’ve done your research, you should be able to do this with a degree of certainty.

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Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?

There you are, just heard that you have made the cut and you’re through to the 2nd interview stage! Hopefully you have asked how many candidates have progressed to that stage, so that you have a sense of the amount of competition you have. Continue reading “Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?”

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How to prepare for a video interview

Video interviews are becoming common practice, as more and more employers (but also recruitment firms) cut travel costs and are looking for more efficient ways to manage their time. However, in my experience, few individuals are well versed in making a good impression by video link and as this is often the final filter to decide whether you are invited for an in-person meeting, it is important to prepare well. Continue reading “How to prepare for a video interview”

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CV writing. Or filming ..?

You’re looking to change jobs or you’re just looking for a job, you may have sent your CV off a few (dozen) times and have had no real result or joy.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes, it’s difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality and creativity from a CV and cover letter.

And from your point of view, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. So the choice is either get really creative with your CV, or think of an alternative way of representing yourself. Unless you’re applying for a graphic design job, there are limits to what you should do with your CV, as its ‘personality’ must be in keeping with the type of position you’re interested in or qualified for.

So what’s the alternative?

We already see that the making of a video clip is part of many entry level position selection processes. These positions see a high volume of applications and it is much quicker to judge candidates visually than from their CV. Of course, in a sense it is also self-selecting, as some people are not prepared to go to the trouble of filming themselves, whereas they may have been tempted to just fire off a CV.

Unilever says that since it has started to use video as part of the job application process, it is getting a higher rate of acceptances on job offers and it has improved its diversity.

So how is this relevant to executive roles and positions?

Well, it isn’t. Not yet anyway.

And here is my point. In my opinion in a world where the number of searches on YouTube are similar to the number of Google searches, video / visual representation is becoming increasingly important. Just look at how many video posts there are on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

So, it will only be a matter of time before we will be presenting ourselves by an introductory email and a link to a video clip … and perhaps a CV attachment as well.  For any position, from shop assistant to CEO.

As that time has not yet come, what an opportunity to stand out from the crowd right now!

So how do you go about it? Here are a few steps to consider.

  1. Plan before you start writing your script.

It is important to make an impression as quickly as possible, so introduce yourself and sum up in a sentence or two why you’re the best person for the job. Follow this with quantifiable achievements, plus comments or examples about your leadership style and your experience to date. Don’t be a clown, however if you can inject a bit of humour then that will make you sound more confident and will give the recipient an idea of your personality.

  1. Rehearse

Know what you are going to say, in what order and what words you will use. Make sure you do not come across as a newsreader. You could put post-it notes with bullet points around the camera if you need an aid. Think about your posture, body language and facial expressions – all this, whilst making sure that this is you and not some act that you cannot live up to in the long run!

  1. Shoot

Do a few test runs to make sure the lighting is right, you have paid attention to the background and that you are happy with the distance of the camera. Just filming your face as a close up would be weird. However it is your choice whether you want to sit, stand, just film your upper torso behind a desk or anything else. Find some examples on YouTube and see what you like and what works for you. Shoot several takes until you are happy with the end result.

  1. Edit

If you’re not a confident editor, avoid using too many graphics or animations – although a title with your name and contact details is a good idea. If you want to splash the cash, then find a professional editor (probably a 19 year old with a penchant for online gaming). The aim should be to create a coherent video without detracting from your message. Remember, you’re being judged on your skills, personality and presentation, not your video editing skills.

Finally, seek out honest feedback from a trusted friend or mentor.

  1. Submit

It is probably easiest to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo in order to share it with any recipient. I’d recommend that you keep your video private, so that only people with the link can see it.

Then create a well-worded email and Bob’s your uncle.

Will this get you the job? No. Will it make you stand out and be more likely to be picked out for an interview? Most likely.

 

Good luck and let me know if you need any help.

Maarten Jonckers

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First interview – how to prepare

Exciting times, you have been invited to meet a potential new employer for what sounds like a great opportunity for furthering your career.

Problem is, you probably are not the only person they will be meeting. Assuming a shortlist of three candidates (and at least one internal candidate), it seems that your chance of success is 1:4.

So how can you swing the odds in your favour?

There are plenty of online articles and books about clever ways to answer interview questions, how to walk, talk and shake hands with your potential new employer and there are plenty of Do’s and Don’t’s regarding your conduct in the meeting and of course the dreaded dress code.
After interviewing potential short list candidates on behalf of my clients for more than 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that if you prepare well for the interview and stick to your plan then you have nothing to fear about.

Whether you have attended scores of interviews, whether you are naturally a confident person or whether you believe the interviewer will not be as senior as you are, if you do not prepare, the likelihood is that you will fail.

So what to do? Well you can’t go far wrong by following these tips:

1. Prepare a 10 minute mini commercial about yourself:
a. Expect the interviewer to have read your CV, so start off by giving only a brief overview of the companies and positions you have held (in no more than 2-3 sentences).
b. Then highlight the experience you have gained that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for, ie ‘the biggest team I have managed was at XYZ, where we achieved the following’, or ‘whilst at XYZ I lead the transformation project that lead to a 180 degree change in company culture’.
c. Highlight 2-3 specific achievements that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for. You really want to talk in quite some detail about what the situation was, what plan you / your team came up with, how you implemented it and what the final result was. Note: the more specific you can be in terms of % or £, the more memorable it will be for the interviewer. Achievements ought to be time based, specific and bench marked, it is the difference between saying ‘whilst at XYZ I significantly improved sales’ and saying ‘in 2013 I increased sales by 15% or £1.5m on a like-for-like basis against a market increase of only 2%’.

Btw you prepare this 10 minute mini commercial so that you can answer the ‘so tell me a bit about yourself’ question. You need to practise it, so that you know what you’re going to say and in what order. Don’t be word perfect, because you might come across as a news reader. Make sure to stick to 10mins – shorter will make you wishy washy, longer may make you verbose (please note that most interviewers will start to switch off after 10mins), however with 10 mins you’ll come across as succinct, to the point and (hopefully) with great clarity.
2. Research the company:
a. Read their website enough times for you to be able to speak knowledgeable about the business.
b. Search the internet for recent news articles on the company.
c. Visit the company’s stores, talk to the store staff, observe what works well and make a list of the things you think do not work well / want to ask questions about. Make a purchase, use their product and have an opinion about the experience and the product.
d. Check the online user experience, compare the digital customer experience to the one you had in store. How did the check out procedure work, was the order delivered on time. What did the packaging look like?

3. Research the competition:
a. How do they compare in service, price points, quality, availability, customer journey on and off line?
b. Speak to customers, why do they shop there? Do they also shop at the business you’re interviewing with? Why, or why not?

4. Research the interviewer(s):
a. LinkedIn is of course a great source for this, however are there also any articles published by or about your interviewer? Check!
b. Is there anyone in the interviewer’s background, who you know? Can you find out some background information on the interviewer? Even to know where they have last holidayed or what sports team they support can help you find common ground, which is so important in establishing rapport.

5. Prepare a SWOT analysis or a brief presentation based on your findings on the business. Preface it with ‘without any concrete information, but more as an outsider looking in, I believe that…’. You need to let the interviewer know in a subtle way, that you have done your home work. And you have done it thoroughly.
Btw if you (and I suggest that you do) leave a few slides / printed pages behind, then make sure they are printed on good quality paper, make sure that your name is printed on each page and depending on how many pages you leave behind, either put them in a nice folder or have them bound professionally. It is amazing how a few quid spent on a simple hand out can make a massive difference.

6. Find out what the company’s dress code is (even better, find out what the interviewer’s dress code is) and either match it or slightly better it. It’s better to be a bit neater than a bit more casual than expected…

7. Make a list of topics you want to talk about / questions you want to ask. The first question after your 10mins mini commercial ought to be ‘although I have done a lot of research, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you what the company has been through in the last 3 years, where it is today and where it aims to be in 3 years time’. Followed by ‘what has prompted the business to want to recruit a new xyz and what would this person need to achieve in their first 6 months in order to be deemed successful’.
Btw, the more you can find out about the interviewer’s or the company’s expectations for this role before you have to start answering their questions the better it is, because it will give you a good idea of what to highlight in your background later on to pique their interest.

8. Prepare yourself for the difficult questions – ‘what are your salary expectations’ (never give them a number, because you will be committed to it), ‘what are your weaknesses’ (give them a past development need that you have now overcome or a development need that has nothing to do with the job you are doing or the job that you are interviewing for).

9. Before you go to the interview think about how you can give some anecdotal evidence of your achievements. Just quoting facts and figures will ensure that the interviewer will forget your achievements, whilst if you wrap them up in an anecdote and tell them a ‘memorable story’ then that is far more likely to stick. Even better if it is a funny story, if you can make the interviewer smile then you are definitely building rapport.
Btw, don’t tell jokes, stick to the truth, don’t set out to be the funny guy. However, we all have experiences that we can smile about – share them!

10. Prepare a few ‘closes’ to the meeting, so that you can chose which one to use depending on the level of rapport you have built. A pushy, in your face close would be: ‘do you at this stage have any reservations regarding my ability to do the job or my ability to fit in from a cultural or personality perspective’. Less direct would be ‘I enjoyed the meeting, what are the next steps please’. Note: you will learn more from the first one, but it might not always be appropriate to use it.

Good luck and make sure to enjoy the experience, because you will come across as more confident if you set out to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need more advice, feel free to contact me.

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Had a job offer … but don’t want to accept?

So you have been through a few rounds of interviews, you feel flattered by the attention and (possibly sooner than expected) you have been offered the job.

Great! But wait …. you’re not sure this is the dream job for you. What next?

There could be a whole host of reasons that you have come this far, but do not want to proceed:

  • Maybe the interview process has been haphazard – perhaps long gaps in between interviews (how urgent is this?), no feedback from meetings (do they value their staff?), seemingly round after round of interviews, tests and meetings (do they know what they want or are they indecisive?)
  • Maybe during the interview process the company has had negative press – could be anything from an industrial tribunal to poor results reported – or the position’s circumstances have changed. Perhaps your future line manager has left the business or the company is going through a restructure.
  • Maybe you have not been entirely honest with yourself and the business. Perhaps you have no intention of leaving your current business and you were just ‘kicking tyres’.
  • Maybe the offer is so under par, that there is no point in negotiating, because you feel that this is an indication of how they value the position.

Whatever it might be, you need to extract yourself gracefully (ideally without burning any bridges because you do not know when you might come across the decision makers again – retail is a small world), whilst also staying true to yourself. In other words give them the real reason, rather than a feeble excuse.

Expect them to try and persuade you to change your mind, after all they have made a significant investment in time to arrive at this point, so make certain when you decline an offer you give them a precise and concise reason, from which you cannot and will not be swayed. And apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Some are easy, for example: “the company’s recent annual results are a real surprise to me and I feel that I have been misled or have misunderstood the business’ current trading performance. I have set myself the target to join a growing business, rather than a turnaround”.

Others are more difficult: “I feel that the position is not significantly different from the one I have currently and know that my prospects for promotion are greater where I am”.

Or: “On reflection, I have misgivings about the fact that the company culture is so different than I am used to, and I’m concerned that this appointment will not work out for either you or me”.

My advice is to make sure that the reason for turning the offer down, cannot be (easily) rectified. If it is about money, they may offer you more. If it is about not being able to work from home, they may offer you that concession.

The financial state of their business or current performance, the company culture or the lack of available progression are not easily fixed…

Need help? Call me!

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Salary negotiation? When to call it quits

It’s tempting to let out a sigh of relief or a shout of joy on receiving a job offer. You probably feel like you have crossed the finish line of a very long race. However it’s important to realise there’s still more work to be done.

Rather than accepting immediately, it’s beneficial to take a day to understand what has been presented. This will give you time to weigh up your options, including your potential salary and benefits package. Once prepared, you will then have the chance to negotiate what has been offered to you — this can be intimidating, but it’s absolutely essential to the hiring process.

However, while salary negotiation is necessary prior to accepting any potential job offer, you must know when to stop negotiating and either accept or deny an offer completely.

What are you negotiating?

Before and during your discussions, you need to continually refer back to your initial reasoning for wanting to negotiate. While negotiation is beneficial to success on your career path, don’t just do it because you feel it’s expected of you. Do your research and gain as much knowledge as possible about the salary ranges for this position in your industry sector. This will allow you completely understand what you are negotiating for. Was the offer just slightly out of your range or way off? No one is going to accept an unreasonable offer.

Bear in mind these negotiations don’t have to be limited solely to money. Many individuals choose to negotiate other benefits that are important to them – it may be the opportunity to work from home once a week, extra holidays or a car allowance rather than an actual car. Whatever it might be, your discussion should be based on research, not on simply demanding the salary you think you deserve.

When should you accept?

Accepting an offer is easy if you have clearly defined your needs to a potential employer. There isn’t a sounding bell for the perfect timing to stop negotiating and accept an offer, but you will feel more confident when you’ve taken the necessary time to prepare, consider, and ask for what you want.

The package might be great, but it’s your job to tie up any loose ends before finalising the deal. Make a final assessment of the position by taking a deeper look into the job content, the company culture, as well your needs. Your acceptance of the offer should ultimately be based on your judgement of all factors.

When do you need to reject an offer?

During your salary negotiation, it’s important to completely understand why and what you are looking for based on research and your needs. Even if you’ve done your homework and conducted an appropriate negotiation, an employer doesn’t have to change their offer.

Your decision to decline should come when your needs aren’t being met. Be sure to do this promptly, confidently, and respectfully. There is no reason to burn a bridge with this employer.

The thought of rejecting an offer might be hard to swallow. After all the hard work and a potentially long hiring process, no one wants to start again. But there’s no reason to accept an offer for a position you’re less than thrilled about, or one that’s below par.

Your decision should be based on your confidence that your needs are being met. Never settle for less.

Need more help? Give me a call!

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WHAT?! Made a mistake? How to minimise career damage

How to recover from a major work-related mistake and minimise career damage.

It’s happened to the best of us. That spine-chilling moment when you realise you’ve made a monumental error that could cost you your job. Examples that spring to mind include missing a zero off a proposal on a multi-thousand pound deal, mistakenly sending an offensive email to a senior executive (or client), losing a key contract through missing a deadline. Whether it was down to carelessness, lack of knowledge or preparation, or the result of a couple of drinks too many at a business event, your boss wants to know:

  • Do you understand what happened?
  • Do you understand how it happened?
  • Are you remorseful?
  • What are you going to do to prevent it happening again?

Own up quick

As soon as you discover your mistake, go and own up to it (in person) before you get hauled in front of the boss. Make it clear that you understand the seriousness of your mistake, and what plans you have for dealing with it.

Face the music

Understand that there may be disciplinary consequences such as a verbal or written warning. Accept it gracefully and don’t make excuses, blame somebody else or try and deny what happened.

Handle the consequences

Take ownership of your actions, accept the situation for what it is, and resolve never to make the same mistake again.

Be discreet

There’s no need to make a soap opera out of your situation. It can be tempting to re-tell the story in the pub, or joke about it with your team-mates. But remember that not everybody will know what happened, and this could result in even more people knowing the situation, making the mistake bigger than it was in the first place. Let it just become yesterday’s news by itself.

Use it to your advantage

While it can be an uncomfortable experience, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from things going smoothly. Hopefully you can take something positive from the situation and improve your performance as a result.

Move on

Don’t let your mistake cast a shadow over the rest of your career. Everybody makes mistakes. Once you’ve faced up to it, done what you can to fix it, and accepted the consequences put it down to experience and move on.

 

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Interview dress code – what (not) to wear!

Ah, the good old days when things were easy and when turning up in a suit was always a safe bet… I blame ‘dress down Fridays’, it has all become so confusing from thereon in.

Now blokes, you’ll have to get in touch with your feminine side – and that doesn’t mean turning up for your interview dressed as Eddie Izzard…

And ladies, it ain’t that much easier for you – Power suit? Are trousers acceptable? Twin set? Dress? Skirt? Above the knee or below the knee?

What do you do?

The importance of making a good first impression gives weight to the argument that you need to carefully think about what you’re going to wear to that 1st interview (and also to the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent interviews, because you cannot turn up in the same outfit every time!).

Your safest bet is to try to find out the company’s dress code and the dress code of the person you’re meeting. Then copy whichever is the smartest dress.

If you do not know anyone who can give you reliable info on a company’s dress code, then phone switch board and ask how the directors are generally dressed. If you’re not sure about the response, then phone again at another time aiming to speak to a different receptionist.

Whilst we’re on the subject of dress code, have a think about your general appearance: hair, jewellery, piercings, tattoos et al.

My view is that generally you do not know the personal likes and dislikes of the person you’re meeting, therefore do not give them the opportunity to dismiss your candidature based on your appearance or first impression. Dress and present yourself within conservative boundaries. Take off excessive jewellery, take out your visible piercings (gents this includes your earrings), go to the hairdresser if you’re not sure that you can make your hairdo acceptable and cover up any tattoos if you can. Also, often forgotten: polish your shoes!

I may sound old fashioned and middle aged, but then again your interviewer might have old fashioned and conservative views. Just do not take a chance.

You may think that they should accept you as you are, however if you are not prepared to flex your style in order to make a good fit, then one could conclude that you are generally inflexible and come across as someone with a point to make. These tend not to be qualities that employers are looking for.

A suit isn’t always the right choice

I pitched for business once, where the client was a young lifestyle brand. I turned up in a suit and tie and could not convince them that I understood their brand and culture (even though I was a client and had been buying their clothes for some years – up until that point…).

A big lesson learned!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

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